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Diet Based on Individuality or Constitution

Ayurveda insists on using a lifestyle and diet together. If this is done then the results are balanced and rapid.

Each person has a different need of nutrients and a different capacity to absorb and assimilate those nutrients. A healthy food for one person can be a disease-causing factor for another. In order to use the Ayurvedic system we need to look at food and food classifications differently than we are used to in the biochemical nutritional model. The Ayurvedic view of food is based on our Agni and how well we can digest the food and access the nutrients inside.

First, we can begin to view foods not as separate categories per se. Instead we can shift our point of view to seeing food according to the person who is going to eat it. This requires a paradigm shift in the way we normally look at food. The prime difference is looking at food according to the metabolism (Dosha and Agni) of the person rather than according to the nutrient content in the food or broad food groups.

Instead of saying, “Eat an apple a day because it has vitamin X”, the new viewpoint is, “What shall I eat today to keep my Doshas in balance.” This is an individualistic approach that requires the person to have a minimum understanding and responsibility for their own health.

It should be clearly understood that people using Ayurvedic nutrition are doing so because they want to take control over their life, health and empowerment. Ayurveda is a patient friendly system that encourages participation. Only you are capable of restoring your own health because it is you who is lifting your hand to your mouth and putting in the basic supply of health (food) into your body. No one is force feeding you food.

Eat According to Your Metabolic Capacity

An effort has been made to distinguish between very aggravating and mildly aggravating foods as per constitution. This also applies to the opposite situation of very beneficial and mildly beneficial foods. In both cases an attempt has been made to show the variegated qualities of food in relation to an individual. The headings, Best, Medium, Mixed, Sometimes, Rarely and Worst have been chosen to give an indication of food actions on any given constitutional type. For the mathematical minded I have also included a percentage indication to show the percentage of use that is beneficial for any given type. This would mean that a food in the ‘Best’ column could be used 100% of the time by the person corresponding to the chart. By the same token a person choosing a food in the ‘Rarely’ column would use the food only 20% percent of the time.

The following chart will clarify the percentage idea. However, I have adjusted the number of times per week to correspond to the amount needed to aggravate a person. Hence, 20% is 1-2 times per week instead of four as eating a lemon four times a week is enough to aggravate a Pitta type, but not 1 or 2 times. The following chart can give you an idea as to the amount needed to disturb you. Note that almost no food is listed as 100% because it is possible to overeat or consume any food to the point of aggravation. Also note that almost no food is listed as ‘Worst’ or 0% because in most cases eating a food once per week will not aggravate your constitution. Therefore, we see that the majority of foods fall into a general use area for all of the constitutions.

100%21 times in the week

80%16-18times in the week

60%8-10 times in the week

40%3-4 times in the week

20%1-2 times in the week

0%0 times in the week

It should be pointed out that a variety of foods need to be eaten in a week’s time. If you eat a certain kind of food every day, day in and day out, it will have greater power to disturb you and cause disruption in your metabolism. It is far better to eat a variety of foods during the week.

The Pitta type of person has the strongest digestive capacity and can digest most any food, junk food, or chemical food (soft drinks) for years without a hint of a problem. Around 37 years-old, give or take a few years, this begins to change. The Pitta type is the most sensitive to sour (fermented) and acidic foods that increase Pitta the body. They also may be attracted to hot spices, but these also pose problems in the long run. These kinds of foods tend to increase the bile production in the liver and pancreas which increases the acidic nature of both blood and plasma. Human cells are very sensitive to the pH level of the body and high Pitta, or acidity, ages cells or breaks down their normal metabolic function. The Pitta type has the strongest enzyme capacity unless too many spicy or acidic foods are eaten. These people have the greatest capacity for both the variety and quantity of food.

In the table below a summery is given on the effects of food groups on the Pitta type of person. This is a general guide to show how groups of foods affect these people. The foods are grouped according to their general action on the metabolism of the Pitta type of person and judge nutritional value accordingly.

Summary of Pitta Type Food Groups

TYPE OF FOOD Effect of food on constitution
Percentage 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%
Best Medium Mixed Some-

times

Rarely Worst
Fruits X
Vegetables X
Grains X
Beans X
Nuts & Seeds X
Dairy X
Oils X
Animal Products X
Sweeteners X
Spices X
Beverages X
Vitamins & Minerals X

 

Quality of food should be made a priority: organic, local, and seasonal when possible. All mixed or dual types should use a seasonal diet as per Dosha to keep the Doshas balanced.

Pitta diet

Eat in a calm and relaxed environment. Don’t do other things while eating and avoid the tendency to rush through meals. To balance out hot, oily, sharp, light, spreading and liquid qualities (Gunas) Pitta types will benefit from including cool, dry, heavy, dense qualities in their meals. Pitta has a strong metabolism (Tikshna Agni) and can’t ignore hunger or skip meals. Pitta should prioritize neutral, bitter and astringent tastes and reduce sour, salty and pungent tastes. Pitta types should also limit the consumption of hot drinks, especially in summer. Pitta types are most sensitive to acidic, sour and fermented food that increase acidity in the blood. Pitta may be attracted to hot spices, but they pose a problem in the long run.

  • 3 meals per day, large – 3/4 to full dinner plate
  • No snacking
  • Avoid fried food cooked in a lot of oil or ghee
  • Fruit should be eaten alone or before a meal – favor sweet fruit, avoid sour, especially in the summer
  • Vegetables for lunch and dinner, favor bitter and astringent (e.g., cabbage family, green salads, etc.), use about 1/3 of the meal in veggies
  • Whole grains every meal or 2x per day, use about 1/2 of the meal in grains
  • Dairy in small amounts is also OK 1x or 2x per day (e.g., milk, fresh cheese, cream, ghee, etc.)
  • Natural sweeteners are OK for every day; avoid honey
  • Nuts 3x per week in small amounts (e.g., 2 or 3 almonds)
  • Meat / Fish 1-2x per week, with low fat and not cooked in oil (e.g., grilled or barbequed), eat 100g amounts of meat or fish per meal.
  • Drink enough water, especially in the summer, room temperature
  • Avoid hot, strong spices, sour, fermented and pungent foods
  • Favor neutral, bitter and astringent tastes, cooling spices like coriander, fennel, cumin
  • Supplements if needed 2x per week
  • Eat regularly, chew properly, with attention, don’t hurry!

Short Outline of Dinacharya for Pitta Prakriti

  • Wake up early in the day, before sunrise when possible
  • Go to the toilet and remove waste (stool, urine, etc.)
  • Drink 500ml of room temperature or cool water
  • Clean or scrape the tongue, then gargle with Sesame oil (Gandusa)
  • Do Jala Neti if needed (nasal wash)
  • Add one drop of ghee to each nostril
  • Do Abhyanga (apply sunflower oil all over the body, or a Pitta Massage Oil)
  • Do Yoga Asana or exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, end with 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Meditate 5 to 10 minutes
  • Take a hot shower or bath to remove oil from Abhyanga
  • Get dressed
  • Eat a substantial Breakfast
  • Go to work
  • Eat a substantial Lunch; if tried or sleepy after eating the quantity was too much
  • Take a short walk to digest and relax
  • Go to work
  • Exercise now if unable to exercise in the morning
  • Eat a substantial Dinner
  • Relax
  • Optional 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing) before bed if the day was very difficult or if there are problems sleeping
  • Go to bed by 10pm and sleep by 11 pm

Pitta Prakriti needs three meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be roughly the same size. Pitta types need more food than the other types due to the strong Agni (digestion). They need to eat every four hours, longer periods of more than five hours without food create hyperacidity and acid reflux conditions. Snacking should be avoided between meals. It is better to eat substantial meals and avoid snacking.